VANCOUVER—Jody Wilson-Raybould says she can’t see herself ever joining another political party.
“I feel political parties have gotten to the place where members of Parliament are responsible to the leader, as opposed to the leader being responsible to the members of Parliament — who are responsible and answerable to our constituents,” Wilson-Raybould said in an interview with Star Vancouver Tuesday.
The former justice minister and attorney general rocked the Trudeau government earlier this year with allegations that she had been improperly pressured to end a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. Last week, a report from Canada’s ethics commissioner found the prime minister broke Canada’s conflict of interest law.
Wilson-Raybould said that her experience in Parliament has shown her there is too much emphasis on gaining and keeping power amongst federal representatives, and that allegiances and “blind loyalty” to the party line are considered more important than the needs of the ridings they represent.
“We have to get to that place where we are making decisions on what’s best for Canadians generally — not what’s best for achieving and holding political power,” she said. “We aren’t quite there yet.”
She said that while the Ethics Commissioner’s report underscored her belief in the strength of government institutions to safeguard against violations of law, it showed a need for the public to keep watch on what their representatives are doing.
“We need to be constantly vigilant in ensuring our public officials are making decisions based on values.”
After her split with the federal Liberals, Wilson-Raybould was temporarily a sought-after free agent.
Despite having “detailed conversations” with both Jagmeet Singh, leader of the federal NDP, and Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party, Wilson-Raybould said she ultimately didn’t see herself as part of any federal party.
“I’m like a square peg in a round hole,” she said “I’m not a political party person.”
However, Wilson-Raybould said she and May were “natural allies in so many things,” particularly in their approach to tackling climate change.
If re-elected, Wilson-Raybould will have to face the Liberals on Parliament Hill in the aftermath of the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
So far, she says only a few former colleagues within the Liberal caucus have communicated with her and she has not communicated at all with Michael Wernick and Gerald Butts, two former Liberal staffers who were central in the Prime Minister’s efforts to push for a deferred prosecution in the SNC-Lavalin case.
However, she said she is not fazed by the idea of returning to the place where just months before, the Liberals ejected her from the party.
“I will look forward to walking into the West Block, and being the representative of Vancouver-Granville,” she said.
“I’m comfortable with what has transpired.”
Heading into the federal election as an independent candidate, Wilson-Raybould faces a financial disadvantage due to current rules restricting how independents can raise campaign money. Candidates in Vancouver-Granville are allowed to spend $106,685 on their campaign; registered parties can spend an additional $84,823 in the riding. In addition, only donations to independent campaigns that are made after the writ drops are eligible for tax receipts.
She also said that the federal Liberals will be able to keep the money her Electoral District Association raised over the three years she was the elected Member of Parliament, which she describes as an amount that was “more than we needed.”
“When the Prime Minister kicked me out of the Liberal caucus, he not only kicked me out, but took all the money we had raised, so we have to start from square one.”
Wilson-Raybould’s Liberal rival, Taleeb Noormohamed, said the money raised may not go directly to him, but it will be available to the party. He said this funding arrangement is fair because Wilson-Raybould raised the funds with the riding association on behalf of the Liberal party.
“People who donated, donated to the party,” said Noormohamed.
He added that Wilson-Raybould likely benefited from people with an interest in supporting the party when she fundraised for her campaign in 2015.
Mario Canseco, president of Vancouver polling firm Research Co., said Wilson-Raybould is a strong contender in the riding, adding that candidates will be heading into a “crazy” fight.
In 2015, Wilson-Raybould secured the seat for the Liberals with about 44 per cent of the vote. The NDP placed second in the Vancouver-Granville riding in 2015, with about 27 per cent of the vote.
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Cherise Seucharan is a Vancouver-based reporter covering crime and public safety. Follow her on Twitter: @CSeucharan